I take back everything I ever said about the girls not traveling well. They were AMAZING. We left at a time that was right near their nap time, so they slept for almost 2 hours just like that. When they woke up, we all stopped for lunch and then headed the rest of the way. They watched Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, Praise Baby and more Sesame Street and they never made a peep. I got these little no-spill cups you put little snacks in and they love Kix, so I loaded them with Kix. It was quiet, too quiet, for a half hour or so and I turned and looked back to see them covered in Kix. So much for no-spill, huh, Nuk. Or maybe it's just my kids. They are kind of destructive and have issues with authority. But they were happily eating the Kix off their bellies, so I left them to it. The trip home was the same. Perfect angels the whole time.
The house Dad rented was amazing. It's one of those dilemmas where you want a nice cabin, but then you're out all day hiking and sight-seeing, so you don't spend a ton of time there. But, we had a great time in the cabin when we were there.
One day, we all went out hiking to Laurel Falls...it's one of the few paved trails in the park, so we could take the girls in the stroller. They were kind of blasé about it, but we let them out to "hike" for a short section and that piqued their interest a little. We also went hiking on a really easy trail from the visitor center to Gatlinburg, on which the girls slept the entire time.
The rest of the time, Aunt Becky, Mamaw and Papaw kept the girls at the cabin while we went hiking. A few days, we got back early enough to hit the town and head to the outlet mall, which I'm never upset about. Aunt Becky, thank you again for driving down to help watch the girls. Love you!
Okay, pictures, finally! And I actually have some more of the girls that I'll post next week. This is like 140-something pictures and they may be out of order, but I'll tell you what's going on seeing as how I don't want to rearrange them. Blogger needs an easier way to do that. Uploading pictures makes me want to kick something. But, I do it for you. And because Mom will call throughout the day asking where the pictures are.
These first few pics are Noah's that I stole.
The trailhead for Metcalf Bottoms. I'm Met and Sara's Calf, because she's the heifer...heh heh. Actually, we didn't even hike to it. It was just in passing on another trail we were on.
This is Porter's Creek Trail, one of my favorite hikes. The water level was the highest I've ever seen in all our trips to the Smokies, so the creeks were beautiful. You can see why they make fun of me for being the "gnome" of the family. Whatever. I say I'm normal and they're freakishly tall creeps.
Sara and her friend, Kim, were able to come up and hike for two days with us. Kim is from Cananda, as Noah spells it. We called her Maple and made fun of how she said "roof". We're actually nicer people than I'm making it sound. Kim is a sweet gal and she makes her own peanut butter...we made fun of that, too.
Deep in the Smoky Mountains lives unimaginably horrible creatures dressed in magenta who prey on unsuspecting tourists. Also, this may or may not have been the exact place where a female hiker was attacked by a black bear a few years ago. But, I was not reenacting that.
Me and the Pipsqueak.
Cades Cove...a.k.a. Shane's Worst Nightmare. I hope all three of your kids grow up and beg you to take them to Cades Cove every year. And I'm going to pack them goodie bags filled with salt water taffy, pralines, and maple candy. Just enough sugar to make it even more awesome on the 11 mile loop.
Oh my gosh, I almost forgot...whenever you go to Cades Cove, 99.9% of the time, you'll see deer. You can't pet them or anything, but they're definitely not afraid of cars. They're always in the fields or on the side of the road, eating something. We saw several deer this time, too. But, we got to see a bear! He was up in a hill in the woods, just moseying on. That was the third time we've seen a bear in the Smokies. Most people (idiots) try to get close to take pictures thinking, "Hey, I'm on vacation. Nothing bad can happen on vacation. A bear won't eat me. These are friendly bears." No, they will eat you. So, we've always stayed in the car and admired from a distance.
Okay, these are my pictures now.
The Laurel Falls trailhead, where Mom insisted on pushing the stroller the entire time. And when people would stop to ask about the twins, they'd say something like, "Are they making you push the whole time?" And she'd reply, "They are! Nobody's even offered to help." We had no pity for her and christened her with the fitting name Martyr Mom.
Dang! Don't step on the edge. People (idiots) stand on this ledge every year and fall. Dang. It's further than it looks.
Me and the Hugs in front of the falls.
Okay, so, growing up, Sara told me that a hand...just a hand...lived under my bed and he would "walk" around at night. I may have told y'all that before. But, for years, I was terrified of the "Unconnected Hand" that lived somewhere under my bed. And hiking a trail, we found his glove stuck in a tree. Just like this. Who leaves their glove, honestly.
Harper's new thing is to squint at you. (Also, you might be wondering about the random red splotches on her cheeks from time to time...bar fights. No, it's eczema. The cold weather does it.)
This is a graveyard that a lot of the locals in the park (before it became a park) used. It was really sad because probably 70% of the tombstones were for infants. It got me thinking about Harper...she might not have made it without modern medicine. Very thankful for the time I live in and for doctors.
This is the Walker Sister's Cabin. I think it was 5 sisters and a few brothers...they all lived here until the last one died in the late 60's. The government established the national park before then and offered people money to relocate. The Walkers refused and the park gave them a lifetime lease and never made them move. This was out in the middle of nowhere and they were completely self-sufficient. No electricity or running water. The brothers died or moved on, but the five sisters stayed. They were WOMEN. Dang!
The trail to Grotto Falls.
This just cracks me up. Mom, you look so prissy. "Oh, I'm so delicate. Oh, my shoes. Ugh, mud. Don't let it touch me."
And powers the wheel below, that spins the grist wheels up in the little house above and grinds the corn to make corn meal or wheat to make flour.
This was the grist mill owner's house. You can tell who are the rich folks because they could afford to paint their house. Obviously, this wasn't the original paint, but it would have looked like this in the 1800's.
So, I was looking out the window one morning and saw all the fog/clouds, hence the name The Smoky Mountains. But, I also noted how blue the mountains always appeared, smoke or not. And I said, "They should have named them the Smoky Mountains." I meant to say, "The Blue Mountains." But nope, I couldn't recover in time and they never shut up about it the rest of the trip. "Hey, Ruth, you should name mountains ranges. The Smokies...so original!"
This is Porter's Creek Trail again. Dang.
There used to be a hunting/fishing resort at the trailhead...lots of wealthy people owned vacation homes here. The park gave them all lifetime leases because they were here before it became a park. The last lease ran out in, I believe, 2002. So, now they're just kind of sitting there, falling apart. Really fascinating and creepy homes that I'm sure were incredible in their day.
Aunt Mahalia's...a fine tourist destination. One with lots of chocolate.
Why...I mean, why?
Eating at the Applewood Farmhouse. Ohhhh, I ate so much food, but I'd do it again.
I don't remember the name of this trail, but there was a waterfall at the end. This was old farmland. See the stone fences still up. There were no trees, just fields with crops and livestock.
Another graveyard. The people in this area, and in most of the Appalachian Mountains, have a tradition where they replenish the flowers in local graveyards once a year. It's called Decoration Day.
An old crop and livestock storage building near a farmhouse.
We came up on this trap and thought, "Holy catfish, they're trying to catch a bear." We found out later it was a wild hog trap. Same difference, though, right? Ever seen Old Yeller? Dang.
The tiny speck of red is Noah.
This footbridge was a lot higher and scarier than it seems from here. There's a bend in the bridge that you can't see. Mom was freaking out, as usual. "Noah, stop looking at your feet! Stop taking pictures! Noah, look at your feet so you can see where you're walking! Noah, grab the handrail! Noah, try not to grab the handrail!"
Sunset at the cabin.
Alum Cave Bluffs trail. This is one of my favorite hikes in the park. Ironically, there is no alum in the rock and there are no caves. So, really, it's just Bluffs trail. Halfway to the bluffs is Arch Rock...a rock that's shaped like an arch that you climb up to continue on the trail. Simple enough.
At some points, it's just walking on solid rock.
Approaching Arch Rock. Dang.
This is me telling David to give me my camera back. You may notice a pooch in my jacket. That is a baby...a baby camera. My beer belly is long gone. It moved back into my butt.
Climbing up into the arch.
A woodland elder on a rocky outcropping. Dang. Look at that elder. Gandalf?
Approaching the bluffs.
The place is huge...it's really hard to get perspective in a picture.
Looking up, water was trickling down from the top. We thought it looked like sequins falling. These are very flamboyant bluffs. Dang.
It's hard to see, but if you look on the right of the dark rocks in the foreground, there's a tiny little hole...another arch.
Back down into the dark mouth of the mountain...but we had to wait forever, but this super slow family was taking their ever-loving time climbing up.
The Smoky (and Blue) Mountains. Dang.
Thanks for your comments earlier, guys! They made my day! Also, interesting fact...the last post was the second highest visited post on my blog ever. It's because I said "fart," isn't it? Tsk tsk...you people are so immature.